Dear Laity and Clergy of the California-Pacific Annual Conference,
On March 3, 2022, the news that GC2020 has been postponed was announced. I know this is a disappointment to many of you who have been waiting for the General Conference to lead us forward and no doubt increases anxieties about the future of the church. I assure you that my commitment to lead us as a just, inclusive, vital church is not diminished in this moment. There is plenty that we can do, and our connection can help us do it more faithfully.
First, the California-Pacific Annual Conference continues our commitment to inclusion across the wide diversity of our area and peoples, including LGBTQ+ siblings. This commitment runs deep in our conference and is increasingly widespread in our United Methodist connection. More than 1,000 people have already signed on to a statement calling us, the church, to resist harm against LGBTQ+ people and supporters, especially in this time as we continue to await General Conference. The commitment to doing no harm remains a deep value that will be upheld as we fulfil our mission.
Also, I imagine that many of you, as leaders in our church, will be looking for helpful ways to talk to others about where we are and where we are going. So much of what is before us is related to the denomination; however, our work in our local settings remains primary. To that end, within the next two weeks we will begin to unveil our Conference vision statement (“Ending Spiritual and Physical Hunger”) and the many ways we are already living into it.
In addition to what we are doing locally, it is always helpful to rely on our connectional resources to support us and bind us together. Another tool you have available comes from the work of an ad-hoc coalition of grassroots leaders and denominational staff who have worked together to help describe core parts of our identity that are true to who we are and where we are heading. These key themes include our disciple-making, our impact on the world, our commitments to a broadly inclusive UMC, and our experience of God. They focus us forward, toward who we are called to be and what we are called to do in the world, visioning a relevant, repentant, and renewed United Methodist Church.
Those resources–all of which are open to adaptation in your local context—can be found HERE.
This continues to be a liminal time. While the General Conference is delayed, we are still called to be the church in the world. Our Annual Conference is committed to a vision of ending spiritual and physical hunger in the name and service of Christ Jesus, so we do not need to idly sit by waiting for the larger denomination to act. Our Book of Discipline, 2016 (paragraph 201) states, “The local church provides the most significant arena through which disciple-making occurs.” This is the time for us to identify and address the hungers experienced in and around our churches and communities. The denominational bodies charged with setting and managing General Conference will keep us informed while we remain engaged in our core disciple-making and world-transforming mission. Significant authority and responsibility rest on each of us, and at each level of our organization. Take it up!
Another issue related to the postponement of General Conference to 2024, is the question of Jurisdictional Conference and what will happen with episcopal elections. As it stands now, there is work being done to find ways to hold elections as soon as possible so that bishops set to retire may do so and new leadership can be elected and begin to serve. As soon as we receive word from the Council of Bishops on that matter, we will share it. In the meantime, our delegation will continue to be included in discussions, work groups and other efforts that you can track on the Delegation’s page HERE.
As you lead faithfully where you are, I’ll be here, along with the Conference leadership, to support your mission and ministry in our region and for the larger witness of Methodism around the world.
Be the Hope,
Bishop Grant J. Hagiya
Los Angeles Area Resident Bishop